Public Health Education and Training

Basic public health training has changed over the years. Early public health efforts in the United States were directed toward improving sanitation and ensuring the safety of the food and water supply, controlling infectious diseases, and providing immunizations to children. Thus, in the early 1900s, the public health workforce was trained primarily in medicine, nursing, and the biological sciences (Brandt and Gardner, 2000; Garrett, 2000; Mullan, 2000). Basic public health training now requires an approach that incorporates understanding of the following:

  • Health problems must be examined in the context of defined populations;

  • Many problems of public health are deeply rooted in the behavior of individuals and in their social context;

  • Public health problems of the twenty-first century are rooted in the technologies of economic development; and

  • Public health problems continue to require the engagement of the body politic, in the form of government participation, for their solution (Fineberg et al., 1994).

Additionally, changing demographics in the United States and the importance of community engagement in problem solving contribute to the need for a more broadly trained and diverse workforce. Involvement in global health issues also argues for increased attention to workforce diversity, but achieving such diversity in the workforce is a major challenge for governmental public health agencies and other public health entities because of the inadequate number of students and faculty from ethnic minority groups. Without high school and undergraduate degree programs in public health, there is little exposure of potential minority candidates to public health as a career option. A related issue is the lack of ethnic minority faculty in programs and schools of public health. Public health agencies, schools and programs of public health, professional organizations, and other components of the public health system need to devote major efforts to identify and facilitate, through funding and other mechanisms, approaches to increase cultural diversity, as well as to enhance awareness of global health issues among public health faculty, students, and staff. For example, many schools of public health have established programs that provide students with practical experiences working abroad, offer short-term international internships as well as fellowship programs related to global health, and engage in international research collaboration on major global health issues.

Recent efforts directed toward achieving the goal of a broadly trained

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